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September 16, 2002

Students help launch pioneering
high school ethnic studies course

This fall, students at Sacramento's Hiram Johnson High School are the first to take a brand-new class in ethnic studies. The course, which was developed by a team of California State University, Sacramento students and faculty along with Hiram Johnson faculty and administrators, comes at the forefront of legislative effort that will require ethnic studies curriculum in high schools statewide.

The new curriculum kicked off with the start of the fall semester.

"It could have a statewide effect," says Gregory Mark, chair of the CSUS ethnic studies department. "It could become a model curriculum for the ethnic studies component that will soon be required in high schools."

Hiram Johnson history teacher James Fabionar will lead four sessions of the class for about 100 freshmen. On some days, the class will be taught by CSUS ethnic studies students, and throughout the year CSUS faculty members will serve as guest speakers. In addition, seniors from Hiram Johnson will act as teaching assistants.

Mark says one of the goals of the program is to head off violence by teaching tolerance. It's a message that Fabionar, who earned his teaching credential at CSUS, says is needed. "There are significant cultural conflicts that occur within groups and between groups at the school," he says. The school's population is 30 percent Asian, 23 percent Hispanic and 14 percent black.

Research on the new curriculum began last semester when students in a CSUS ethnic studies class conducted door-to-door surveys and focus groups to determine community needs. Ethnic studies students worked with CSUS professor James Sobredo and Fabionar to develop each of the course's lesson
plans. Four of them also interned with the Asian Pacific Islander Youth Violence Prevention Center.

The course will introduce key concepts in ethnic studies such as identity and culture, Sobredo says. Students will also study specific groups - Hispanic, Asian, Native American and European. Later, they'll look at multicultural topics such as what is a nation, immigration and acclimation, and stereotypes.

The course's mix of Hiram Johnson faculty, CSUS students and faculty, and twelfth-grade student assistants should also offer an informal mentoring influence by placing role models in the classroom. "It's phenomenal that a whole group of experts in the field will directly reach the kids," Fabionar says. "And having the older students working with younger students offer them a connection they wouldn't have otherwise."

The Asian Pacific Islander Youth Violence Prevention Center is funded by a five-year, $6 million grant from the Centers for Disease Control with Mark as the director. It operates jointly at the University of Hawaii at Manoa and the National Council on Crime and Delinquency in Oakland. This summer, seven students from the ethnic studies department took part in internships in Hawaii and Sacramento where they worked on the ethnic studies curriculum and research projects to reduce youth violence among Asians and Pacific Islanders in the United States.
More information is available by contacting the CSUS public affairs office at (916) 278-6156.

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California State University, Sacramento • Public Affairs
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